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Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff: A 3D Printing Whitepaper

March 10, 2015 , , ,

Today we’re happy to announce our newest 3D printing whitepaper Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff. Today’s paper follows in the footsteps of 2010’s It Will Be Awesome If They Don’t Screw It Up: 3D Printing, Intellectual Property, and the Next Great Disruptive Technology and 2013’s What’s the Deal with Copyright and 3D Printing?

Like the previous papers, Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff examines the intersection between 3D printing and intellectual property. However, Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff takes a more practical, application-based approach to the problems.

One of the most significant ways that 3D printing differs from other digital technologies is the way in which intellectual property attaches to the files and objects involved. In the case of more “traditional” digital goods such as music, movies, articles, photographs, and code, it is clear that copyright protection attaches immediately and completely. Therefore, discussions about licensing center on terms connected to those copyrights.

For many 3D printed objects, and the files that represent 3D printed objects, protection is not as clear or straightforward. In many cases, intellectual property law will treat the physical object and the digital file differently. Furthermore, oftentimes copyright will protect neither the object nor the file, or will only offer partial protection.

As result, a discussion about licensing 3D printed things begins a step earlier than more traditional digital goods. Instead of beginning with the question “what license is appropriate?” the world of 3D printing must first ask “what (if anything) is actually protected by an intellectual property right?” Only after resolving that line of inquiry can one begin to consider the appropriate license.

For non-practitioners, the process of identifying protected elements of 3D printed objects and files is not always intuitive or straightforward. Licensing Your 3D Printed Stuff is intended to be an introduction to the ideas and processes involved. Hopefully, by understanding what types of intellectual property protections are (and are not) at stake, creators of 3D printable objects will be able to make more informed licensing decisions.

You may view the whitepaper here.